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Parole pushed for Iowa inmate dying of cancer

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa woman who was once the youngest inmate facing a life sentence in the state’s correctional system has Stage 4 cancer and wants to die outside prison walls.

A Polk County judge recently resentenced Kristina Fetters, 33, and recommended parole, The Des Moines Register reported. If the Iowa Board of Parole approves it, Fetters would be the first Iowa inmate sentenced to life in prison as a juvenile to be released after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The high court said life sentences without parole are unconstitutional for juveniles.

Fetters’ attorney Michael Adams and Polk County Attorney John Sarcone both supported the resentencing. But there’s no guarantee she will be freed, despite the judge’s expedited hearing.

“We’re just in the very beginning stages of getting information,” board Chairman Jason Carlstrom said. “There are a lot of things that need to be ironed out before any decision about anything is made.”

A jury convicted Fetters of first-degree murder in 1995 in the death of her great-aunt, Arlene Klehm. Klehm died in 1994 after Fetters hit her on the head with an iron skillet and stabbed her at least five times. Fetters was 15 when she entered prison.

The resentencing process began last week after Adams told the county attorney’s office that his client’s breast cancer was worsening. It has spread to her bones, and doctors are mostly keeping her pain under control at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women’s hospice facility.

Judge Douglas Staskal said in his resentencing that Fetters should be released as soon as possible. The parole board and the corrections department received a copy of his ruling on Thursday.

“The Court finds that Kristina Fetters has rehabilitated and redeemed herself and the Court recommends to the Parole Board that the defendant be released immediately from custody because of her poor health condition and prognosis,” he said in the ruling.

Adams said his client’s disease should speed up the process for a decision.

“She lived her life as a model inmate and a model citizen within the institution prior to believing that there was a chance that she would ever be released,” he said.

Adams told the newspaper that Fetters would likely be placed into a hospice care facility if released.

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